Can I chop down my neighbour’s tree?

Now that spring has sprung, people will be spending more time in their gardens and enjoying the lighter evenings. For some, enjoying the sun can be plagued by a neighbour’s obtrusive tree, but what is the law surrounding your rights? Can you chop it down?

 
MWR’s civil disputes expert, Sharon Rigby provides the answers;
There is no automatic right to enjoy light in English Law. However, if you have enjoyed uninterrupted light for 20 years, then you have the right to acquire it back if this is subsequently blocked by a neighbour’s tree, hedge or other foliage. The Prescriptions Act 1972 will allow you to seek relief in the Courts. Such action must however be commenced in Court within 12 months of the light becoming blocked, otherwise you will lose your right to appeal.

Can I actually chop the tree down myself without involving the Court?
A property owner does own his/her home, the airspace above and the land below. A tree within the confines of your neighbour’s property also belongs to your neighbour.
You are however, entitled to remove branches which overhang onto your property, provided you return them to your neighbour. It must be noted that you can only chop or prune the tree back to the boundary line, without having sought permission.
If the tree in question is protected by a Tree Preservation Order or within a conservation area, you will always require permission prior to removing any branches.

What if the tree is on my neighbour’s land?
Entering onto a neighbour’s property to chop down a tree on his/her land is illegal and can amount to trespass and criminal damage. It is therefore advisable to liaise with your neighbour and seek professional guidance if they do not adhere to your requests.
If the tree is causing damage, injury or loss of the reasonable use and enjoyment of your own property, then you may have grounds to apply to the Court for an Abatement Notice. Such Notice, if granted, will order your neighbour to take action to resolve the problems.

Top tips
• The best course of action is always to speak to your neighbour first, to attempt to resolve any issues caused by their trees or hedges.
• Perhaps you can agree to prune the tree to lift the canopy or thin out the branches if light is being blocked. Invite them onto your land to show them how your light is blocked and how it affects you.
• You can remove overhanging branches yourself, unless the tree is a protected one.
• Uninterrupted light for at least 20 years can be re-acquired through the Courts should this suddenly be blocked by a neighbour’s tree.
• If the tree is causing damage or injury, then you will need to apply to the Court for redress on the basis that this is causing a legal nuisance.

If you are involved in a disagreement with your neighbour, landlord, insurance provider or contractor and require advice, pick up the phone and speak to our experts on 01772 254201, or send an email to sharon.rigby@mwrlaw.com